My Top Priorities at a Medical Meeting

Paul Sufka


“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.” — Seneca

This year will be the tenth consecutive American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting that I have been able to attend. Each year, I have spent time prior to each meeting thinking about how to best optimize my time there, so below is my current approach to prioritizing time at a major medical meeting.

1. Networking. In 2012, I wrote a post titled Optimizing Your Meeting Experiences, suggesting, “it is important to remember the one thing that you can do at a meeting that you can’t do anywhere else: meet with people.” As such, networking is far and above my highest priority at ACR.

Because time at the meeting is obviously limited, with only a few exceptions, if a opportunity to talk with someone comes up that results in skipping a lecture, I’ll just catch highlights on Twitter (see my post: Three Steps to Keep Up With Twitter at a Major Medical Meeting) and/or plan on watching the lecture online with ACR Beyond Live.

Where to network, if you’re an introvert (like me):

  • If you’re reading this post, you’re likely on social media, so I suggest checking out the #ACR18 Tweet Up on Sunday from 2:30–4:00pm in room W179b.
  • The poster hall and the exhibit hall are some of the best places to network.
  • Take time after lectures to meet with speakers and/or moderators.
  • If someone is on social media and has similar interests, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and offer to grab coffee or lunch with them.
  • ACR’s list of Networking opportunities at ACR18.

2. Exercise & Rest. Both exercise and rest will make your time much more effective. Research has clearly shown that exercise improves learning, and that sleep promotes memory formation.

If needed, schedule time for exercise on your calendar. The number one thing that I look at when booking hotels for the meeting is the fitness center (Google image search is a great way to figure out what equipment the hotel gym will have).

It can be difficult to prioritize sleep during a meeting, which makes it a good time to try a coffee nap.

3. Lectures. The most important principle for attending lectures is having a low threshold to walk out of any session that isn’t benefiting you. Again, time is limited, and you can always catch highlights on Twitter and/or watch the lecture online later. Because of this, I generally plan on going to sessions that I expect to be either high-yield, or that colleagues or friends are presenting.

4. Social media. In spare moments, I keep up with the #ACR18 hashtag on Twitter. As always, I’ll generally tweet out a fairly steady stream of whatever knowledge I’m exposed to.